Glasgow Sevens: Players praise Scotland as future looks bleak

Simon Amor, DJ Forbes and Humphrey Kayange back sevens rugby in Scotland ahead of announcements on its future

By Gareth Llewellyn

With an announcement imminent on Scotland’s future as a host on the HSBC Sevens World Series, several big names in the abbreviated form of the game have given their support to the event.

As far back as October 2014 it was understood that the event had been lost, with the French Rugby Federation expected to win back the May date it lost to the Scottish Rugby Union nine years ago with a new event to be held in Paris, which has hosted the World Series in three of the four years it visited France between 2000 and 2006.

The event at the 15,000-capacity Scotstoun Stadium last weekend was sold out over the two days, but Scottish Rugby has, at times, struggled to attract spectators to the event despite the abbreviated form of the game being invented in Melrose – something that seems to resonate more with sevens players and coaches than rugby fans.

Any nation that loses the chance to compete in these events on the world stage is a huge loss.

Simon Amor

While many of the venues on the World Series hold between 27,000 and 50,000 spectators, the Scotland event is by far the smallest on the circuit.

The Tokyo and Gold Coast events – both capable of holding just over 27,000 spectators – will also disappear in next season’s 10-round campaign with Japan’s event replaced by a new event in Singapore and Australia’s event relocating to Sydney.

The other changes see Cape Town replace Port Elizabeth for the South African round of the series with the introduction of a 10th round in Canada, already confirmed to be in Vancouver alongside the existing event in Las Vegas, as World Rugby looks to tap into the exploding growth of rugby in North America.

The potential loss of revenue from hosting a round of the World Series has promoted the SRU to review its sevens programme, with speculation last week that the Scots could drop out of the globetrotting showpiece tournament to go part-time despite new head coach Calum MacRae having led his side to five Cup quarter-finals in eight rounds and standing on the verge of leading Scotland Sevens to seventh place with one round to go, which would be their highest position in the standings since the competition began in 2000.

After weeks of talking down and denying that any decisions had been made on both the future of the tournament and the Scotland Sevens team, World Rugby and the SRU are expected to make announcements this week, but the writing is seemingly on the wall for Scotland, despite other nations including Fiji, Samoa and Wales among those enjoying the benefits of sevens programmes despite not hosting a World Series event.

Former player and England head coach Simon Amor believes that the demise of the Scotland Sevens team would be a huge loss to the HSBC Sevens World Series.

The atmosphere is very good and the way the SRU have hosted it and put on the tournament has been outstanding.

Simon Amor on the Glasgow Sevens at Scotstoun Stadium

With Scotland having just two professional 15s clubs in the Guinness PRO12, the chance of young players to develop their skills could be further limited should the the Scottish Rugby Union choose to compete on the much shorter Rugby Europe-organised Sevens Grand Prix circuit and invitational events.

Amor is adamant that sevens rugby can play an instrumental role in player development, something he has witnessed first hand with several England Sevens stars progressing to secure deals with Aviva Premiership clubs with current full-time sevens players Jeff Williams and Marcus Watson signing deals with Bath Rugby and Newcastle Falcons, respectively, for next season.

“I don’t get involved in what happens there, but any nation that loses the chance to compete in these events on the world stage is a huge loss,” Amor told The Sport Review.

“The development pathway is enormous.

“We’ve had three of our guys – two this year and one last year – leave the programme.

“They’ve done great things in sevens and gone on to play for Premiership clubs.

“It’s proving to be a great way of being successful in its own right, and also developing players for the 15-a-side game.

“We’re hopefully getting that balance right at the moment as an England programme, being successful to a certain extent and progressing the 15-a-side game, and hopefully we can continue that.”

Amor also praised the Scottish Rugby Union for its organisation and the growth of the Scottish round of the World Series in Glasgow for the last four years after five years of struggling to fill the cavernous 67,000-seater BT Murrayfield.

“The way the tournament has grown over the years, the last weekend has been a great atmosphere,” he added.

“Saturday, in particular, with the sun out was fantastic.

“The atmosphere is very good and the way the SRU have hosted it and put on the tournament has been outstanding.”

Amor wasn’t the only big name coming out in support of the Scottish round of the World Series with All Blacks Sevens skipper DJ Forbes also happy to talk about what the event means for New Zealand’s proud rugby stars.

I’m pretty stoked that Scotland has always been a great venue, and we’ve had some pretty good success here – not this time around – but we’re pretty grateful [to play here].

DJ Forbes

Forbes included Scotland when he explained that the All Blacks had faced six of the top sides in the World Series during their week in Glasgow.

Recognising Scotland’s role in the creation of sevens rugby, he reiterated his support after another tough weekend in Glasgow as he led his side to another Cup final, where they failed to defend the Ned Haig Cup, going down 24-17 to World Series leaders Fiji.

He admits there are a lot of outside factors that go into deciding where to host each round of the World Series, and World Rugby drive a hard market, but size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to choice of venue.

“Scotland always turn it on for us,” Forbes said.

“It’s always a pleasure playing here.

“You could have 70,000 like at Twickenham or 20,000. If you’ve got the right size stadium and you can fill it up, it always gets the atmosphere going.

“As long as it’s a full house and everyone really gets into it you don’t really notice a difference.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s the big dogs making the calls on where it should be played, all the little things in terms of resources and things that make up which venue should be selected.

“I’m pretty stoked that Scotland has always been a great venue, and we’ve had some pretty good success here – not this time around – but we’re pretty grateful [to play here].

“There’s a proud history here and where sevens started, in terms of Scotland; the fans always turn out.”

kenyanfans500

Kenyan fans are the life and soul of the Glasgow Sevens partyPhoto: Jason O’Callaghan

Always popular with supporters in Scotland, particularly those in the party stand at Scotstoun, Kenya are among the nations to enjoy the best following along with the hosts and the mercurial Fijians.

It’s a special place, with the history of sevens – and playing at the Melrose Sevens at the start – that, to us, has been something quite unique.

Humphrey Kayange

Former Kenya captain Humphrey Kayange admits that playing in the country that created sevens rugby is always a special feeling for his countrymen.

Accepting that change is inevitable, the giant sevens forward concedes he is sad to know that he could have visited Scotland for the last time after bowing out in the Bowl semi-finals to Argentina on Sunday afternoon.

“The Kenyan crowd and the Kenyan community loves sevens rugby,” Kayange said.

“Scotland being the home of sevens, the guys enjoy coming back to Glasgow to play sevens here.

“We get a lot of Kenyan fans coming from all over the UK and they support the guys across the two days, so it’s always been great for getting home and local support.

“The Scottish people have always been really supportive and just cheering for the team, and it’s really amazing to see everyone backing us and pushing us forward to get some good results.

“It’s always at the end of the season as well, so you always try to finish on a high and we’re always excited to be back here.

“It’s really sad to be playing and know that you’ll not be coming back to Scotland again.

“It’s a special place, with the history of sevens – and playing at the Melrose Sevens at the start – that, to us, has been something quite unique.”

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